Happy Birthday, Leigh Brackett!

leigh bracket

Happy Birthday to Leigh Brackett, the Queen of Space Opera Science Fiction! Leigh Brackett was one of the best and possibly most important authors you’ve never heard of [unless you follow us, of course].

She was a fan-favorite in the pages of the pulps [and yes, the readers knew she was a woman, and if a neophyte reader misgendered her in the letters columns, editors were quick to correct them]. Some of her Hollywood screenplays are among the most beloved classics of all time.

These days, she gets short shrift in some circles, in part because of the Year Zero approach to culture that requires glass ceilings to be broken over and over again–plus the uncomfortable fact that she not only spoke up about NOT facing discrimination for being a woman in Science Fiction [Hollywood was another story], she was unapologetically /our girl/–her final sci-fi epic, Skaith, was Atlas Shrugged in Space with a black man siccing his psionic dogs on hippies and communists so that the people who worked for a living could escape to the stars with their labor intact.

We’re such huge fans of Leigh Brackett that this year, we published a fully illustrated 70th Anniversary edition of her Eric John Stark Planet Stories adventures!

Be sure to check those out [they’d make great Christmas presents] and her other many thrilling works!

The Tough Sword-Fighting Space Dame

I’ve given Disney a lot of shit for their “Hurr durr, we’re finally getting a woman with a light-saber” marketing, because ass-kicking women with swords and light-sabers are kind of Otis Adelbert Kline’s thing:


From the cover of the 1929 issue of Argosy serializing Maza of the Moon.

A few weeks back, Anthony did a post on how to make good Strong Women characters. He hit in a few good points, even if he didn’t pick a great example. Even “good” Strong Women characters like the one he references are actually figures of fun within their stories; note that he even points out that there are constant references to how unwomanly she is and won’t find a man. I disagree with his take that “They need to suffer some sort of loss related to their femininity” to be a good strong female character, but his point that “They need to be paired up with a male character equally strong or stronger” has merit.

I’ve noted that women in the pulps may suffer from The Worf Effect–if the male hero can’t hold his own against the toughest dame on the planet, he’s not gonna be much help to said dame when they’re really in a pinch. On the other hand, you know a dame is tough when she can give the guy who’s gonna topple a space dictatorship with his sword a run for his money.

It’s a shame that the new kids feel they have to reach for anime for their examples of tough women in sci-fi, when they’ve been hanging out in the pulps all along.

Take for example this great scene from Swordsman of Mars–Thorne has just met Thaine, the childhood friend of the Martian who he’s traded places with. At her camp, the pair are attacked by a band of hostile Martians, and a couple of them pull Thaine into her hut and briefly out of sight of the hero.

He was about to spring through the opening when he saw the girl framed in the doorway, dagger in one hand and sword in the other, both dripping blood. Behind her, barely visible in the dim light of the interior, lay one dead and one dying foeman.

“Why – why, I thought…” stammered Thorne, lowering his point.

The girl smiled amusedly and stepped out of the hut. “So you believed these clumsy Ma Gongi had cut me down. Really, Sheb, I gave you credit for a better memory. Have you forgotten the many times Thaine’s blade has bested yours?”

So her name is Thaine, mused Thorne. Aloud he said: “Your demonstration has been most convincing. Yet I have not lost my ambition to improve my swordsmanship, and I should be grateful for further instruction.”

“No better time than now. Still, I have you at a disadvantage, since you hold an inferior weapon.”

“It is a handicap which a man should accord a girl,” Thorne replied.

“Not one this girl requires.”

She sheathed her dagger and extended her blade. Thorne engaged it with his captured weapon which, though more heavy and clumsy, was somewhat similar to a saber.

He instantly found that he had to deal with the swiftest and most dexterous fencer he had ever encountered, and time after time he barely saved himself from being touched.

“It seems your stay at the military school has improved your swordsmanship,” said the girl, cutting, thrusting, and parrying easily – almost effortlessly. “In the old days I would have touched you long ere this. Yet, you but prolong the inevitable.”

“The inevitable,” replied Thorne, “is sometimes perceptible only by deity. For instance, this” – beating sharply on her blade, then catching it on his with a rotary motion – “has often been known to end a conflict.”

Wrenched from her grasp by his impetuous attack, her sword went spinning into the undergrowth.

Instead of taking her defeat badly, Thaine actually beamed.

“You have developed into a real swordsman, old comrade! I am so glad I could almost kiss you.”

“That,” Thorne answered, recovering her weapon for her, “is a reward which should fire any man to supreme endeavor.”

“It is evident that you have mastered courtly speech as well as fencing. And now I will prepare your favorite dish for you.” She called the brute. “Here, Tezzu,” indicating the bodies. “Take these away.”

There are a number of things in effect here:

Thaine’s able to remain boastful to rib her childhood friend, but the hero wasn’t deprived of his moment in “saving her”; alone, either of them might have been overtaken, but Thaine can hold her own. It’s important to note that this wasn’t a case of the hero showing up and the woman has done all of the work and didn’t need any help at all.

Thorne gets a chance to both size up Thaine’s fighting skills and judge how good he’s supposed to be, since at this point, he’s new to Mars and new to filling in the shoes of the young Martian viscount he’s stepped into. Ultimately, it’s his lack of proper Martian table manners that gives him away to Thaine.

Now that Sheb/Borgen Takkor (actually Harry Thorne) has been shown to have taken a level in badass, the girl can be impressed by his growth. She no longer sees him as an inferior, regards him as someone who she could genuinely rely on when pressed and is prepared to reward him with her affections as a strong woman who’s found a stronger man.

Food. A lot of women like to cook for a man. And being promised that you’ll be cooked your favorite meal is a hell of a thing. An unbelievable amount of human behavior is predicated on doing things that will get you your favorite meal cooked for you by a lady and the endeavors undertaken to earn such a privilege. So, you want a beautiful Martian lady to cook you tasty bug-steaks? You’d better be able to kill AT LEAST as many evil Martian swordsmen as she can when you guys get attacked by them.

Did You Just Misgender Leigh Brackett!?

Okay, there’s been this long-running narrative myth that while Leigh Brackett didn’t have to change her name to hide that she was a woman, she somehow flew beneath the radar with a masculine sounding sound name and found success that would’ve been denied to her if it were more commonly known she was not a man.

Well, I’ve found a smoking gun.

Not only was it known that Leigh Brackett was a woman, Wilbur Peacock, the editor of Planet Stories at the time, went out of his way to correct someone who referred to Brackett as “he” in a letter to the Vizigraph (Planet Stories’ letters section).

Brackett Planet Stories

Planet Stories, May 1943 Issue, P 124

This was relatively early in Brackett’s career, too. She’d only been publishing scifi in the pulps since around 1940, but in 1943 Peacock stated with confidence (and accuracy) that she would be one of the greats of science fiction.

So, a couple things. Sometimes the pulps, SF pulps in particular, are painted as some kind of boys’ club, yet most evidence I’ve seen implies that couldn’t be further from the truth. Weird Tales had several women writing both stories and letters. The issue of Thrilling I read had a pretty even split in the letters section. This is one of the earlier Vizigraphs I’ve read; here you have the Editor not only praising Brackett and confirming that she’s a woman, he even encourages the female readership he’s certain exists to interact more and get involved. Given that the later issues I’ve read tended to have more women writing into to the letters section, it seems they did!  Even if there wasn’t anything close to gender parity, the picture of the pulps and sci-fi as hostile and closed off to women just doesn’t jibe with reality.

Anyway, I would’ve included some more links, but Jeffro scooped me on writing the actual article, since I found this over the weekend and was gonna wait (but clearly this was important enough that it couldn’t wait!)


Dig Awesome Female Characters in Your SFF? Read the Pulps!

Awhile back, a rather cartoonish individual on twitter criticized Cirsova’s aim to be ‘regressive’ like the pulps, saying that it was tantamount to celebrating and wallowing in sexism. Prior to being blocked, I merely suggested that this person wasn’t actually familiar with the pulps.

If you want some awesome lady heroes, anti-heroes, or villains, the pulps are where it’s at.

The last handful of pulp stories I’ve read have featured:

  • An ass-kicking jungle princess who can hold her own and even saves herself from time to time. (Son of Tarzan, All-Story Weekly 1915-1916.)
  • An alien high priestess queen who sacrifices an anthropologist to her people’s gods because why wouldn’t you? (Garden of Evil, Planet Stories, 1949)
  • A lady spy who outwits an alien viscount and blows up a Death Star (Stalemate in Space, Planet Stories 1949)
  • A warrior woman who unites several barbarian tribes, conquers the largest city in the North, and becomes the queen warden of Mars’ northern marches. (Black Amazon of Mars, Planet Stories 1951)
  • A princess who won a bloody succession war to become the most powerful ruler and greatest fighting general Venus has ever seen. (Planet of Peril, Argosy All-Story Weekly, 1929)

I’ll be talking about two of those, Stalemate in Space and Black Amazon of Mars, in my upcoming columns at Castalia House this week and next.

Jirel of Joiry

Why is Jirel of Joiry, one of few bona fide woman pulp Sword & Sorcery heroes, so comparatively obscure? Is it because Jirel is a female protagonist? Or is it because C.L. Moore is a woman author?

To those last two questions, the answer is “Of course not”; C.L. Moore is beloved and influential, and with so many people supposedly out there looking for women heroes in SFF to hold up, Jirel’s sex is certainly not the reason.

I think Jirel’s relative obscurity has to do with the intensity and complexity of the source material. When Weird Tales billed Black God’s Kiss as “The Weirdest Story Ever Told”, they were perhaps only being slightly hyperbolic. Barbarians with swords killing shapeshifting reptile cultists? Kinda weird, I suppose. Tentacle monsters from beyond the stars driving a New England poof crazy? That’s pretty weird, I guess. Jirel of Joiry? It is weird in ways that cannot really be described; loud tastes, flavorful sounds, deafening sights – Edvard Munch’s the Scream, but in blacks and purples and greens and with words.

If Jirel were just some woman who fought monsters with swords and had adventures and quipped “I pity you, traitorous wizard!” as she vanquished some foe, she might very well be much more widely beloved and remembered today* and placed alongside John Carter, Conan and Stark on the pantheon of pulp action heroes, but she would also lose so much, if not all, of what makes her a fascinating character.

First off, you really have to accept the premise that you can’t staple the male hero’s journey to a female hero to understand why Jirel is so different. Yet in her life prior to where Moore’s stories pick up, Jirel may have been attempting to undertake the male hero’s journey, which is why things have immediately gone to hell (quite literally) in her debut adventure.

The male’s journey is to achieve stature, dominance, then legacy; the female’s journey is to achieve stature, security, then legacy; of course that is a gross simplification because how they go about these things are entirely different. The woman does not have to seek virile stature among men to achieve her second or third goal, merely appeal to those who can help her achieve them. The legacy may be achieved by works** or parenthood, leaving a mark upon the world, but the woman can best achieve legacy through motherhood and upbringing of children with (in conjunction with the goal of security) a man or without him. In her pursuit of the male’s journey, Jirel has forfeited, to her regret, her feminine security and legacy by destroying someone who may have been able to provide them to her. This forfeiture, and how she feels it has ruined and cursed her, is central to Jirel’s character. And it is a VERY uncomfortable thing.

In a way, Jirel is a character in another’s story, Guillame’s; in Guillame’s story, he bravely fights against one of the strongest kingdoms, led by one of the strongest leaders, a brash and haughty woman waiting to be tamed…only she kills him. Rather than be tamed by the strong heroic swordsman, Jirel sells her soul and literally goes into hell to retrieve a “weapon” to kill him. But it is not a warrior’s weapon; it is a woman’s weapon—a kiss. A kiss that will kill and damn to hell. Too late does Jirel realize that Guillame was someone who could have given her security and legacy. He was stronger than her and could have protected her. She realizes that perhaps she wanted to be tamed by this rogue. And it devastates her to the core of her being. She is Belit killing Conan. Leia shooting Han.

While Jirel is, by outward appearances and actions, the dashing and brash heroic swordsman, that is a mask (one which her supernatural foe uses to mock her). She’s not a ‘man with boobs’ (though she at times tries to be one), but a feminine woman with feminine needs, emotions and desires. The Black God sequence is a terrifying look at the emotional turmoil and consequence of a woman who has tried to live the trope of Strong Female Protagonist and been utterly crushed and broken by it.

*: Copious amounts of erotic art aside
**: Oftentimes works are not enough, particularly in the heroic mold and tradition. It is not enough to create or maintain, one needs to pass on. For instance, part of what makes Kull a tragic figure is that for all of his efforts to sustain his empire, he left no line—doubly tragic for the importance he placed on love and marriage’s role in society while he himself never found a mate.

“Rescuing Women” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The essay “Rescuing Women” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch appears in the upcoming Summer Issue of Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine.

Apparently, women working in science fiction today need a hand up. For the past few years, women writers who got their start after the year 2000 have complained that they need to use male pen names and initials to get published. They need Kickstarter help to get into magazines, and they need assistance to sell their fiction to the sf world at large.

Male writers and editors whose careers started this century are more than happy to extend that hand—because, I guess, those men have joined all the other men at the top of the heap, apparently with no effort at all.

Everyone is so busy storming the barricades that they’re ignoring the fact that bestselling and award-winning women writers already work in the field. Women—without using pen names or initials—have written about strong women in science fiction for decades.

We women—those of us sitting with the men at the top of that mythical heap—have become invisible. The bestsellers, the award winners, the women who have dominated the field since the 1980s and are still active in it, we apparently are beneath the notice of the new generation of writers. Even the women who edit major magazines (a tip of the hat to Sheila Williams at Asimov’s), edit, run, and own major publishing companies (another tip of the hat, this time to Betsy Wolheim of Daw and Toni Weisskopf of Baen) have become invisible.

Ironically, we’re perfectly willing to extend a hand to those women who want a start in the field. Heck, we’re happy to extend our hands to the men too—and often do. In fact, we’ve extended our hands to the LGBT community long before it had an acronym.

Although, to be fair, we probably deserve this mistreatment.

After all, we did the same thing to the women who came before us.

In fact, we might’ve treated them even worse than the younger generation is treating us. That younger generation is just looking past us as if we don’t exist.

We’ve relegated our founding mothers to busty women who were carried off, kicking and screaming, by bug-eyed monsters. We’ve complained for decades about the art on sf pulp covers, without really looking at it.

Before I go further, let me say categorically, much of that art is breathtakingly racist, particularly with the rendering of Asians before, during, and after the Second World War. A whole lot of the art is eye-popping: women in a state of undress, being whipped or chained by some villain.

The women are busty. The men have muscles on their muscles. Almost everyone is white.

But…if you really look at those covers, you will see the unexpected. You will see that women aren’t the only ones being carried off by bug-eyed monsters. Men are too. And who is running after that monster, trying to save the poor he-man who can’t extricate himself? A competent woman holding a blaster, demanding that evil alien put the man down.

Men didn’t draw that art to subjugate women. Men and women drew the art to sell magazines—to men and women. One of the most famous female pulp artists, Margaret Brundage, is slowly being rediscovered. Vanguard Productions published a book of her art titled The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage three years ago.

Scroll through some of her covers, and you’ll see that she illustrated the work of some of the best writers of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. One of Brundage’s most famous covers illustrates one of the most famous stories by C.L. Moore, “Black God’s Kiss,” first published in Weird Tales in 1934. And why is that important?

Because “Black God’s Kiss” introduces Jirel of Joiry, one of the most famous fantasy heroines of the mid-twentieth century. Jirel was a sword-and-sorcery fantasy heroine who ruled her own country (Joiry) and who could have gone toe-to-toe with Conan or any other S&S male hero—and beat the crap out of him.

Jirel’s creator, C.L. Moore, happened to be a woman as well—perhaps the most influential woman to write science fiction and fantasy in the early period because C.L. Moore—Catherine Lucille Moore—also influenced other writers, including Leigh Brackett (a woman) and someone named Ray Bradbury.

Oh, and let’s dispel that myth that constantly follows poor Catherine Moore everywhere she goes. C.L. Moore didn’t write under initials because sf was a male-dominated genre and she had to hide her gender. She wrote under initials because, at the time, the pulp magazines were disreputable. She had a real job, in a bank, and she was terrified she’d be fired if anyone knew she was moonlighting as a writer.

You see, there was this little thing called the Depression, and jobs were hard to come by, so Miss Catherine Lucille Moore decided that caution was the better part of valor and put initials on her byline for deniability.

She knew a lot about the magazines she submitted stories to. She knew, for example, that women had been editing sf since the modern sf era began. Miriam Bourne acted as both associate editor and managing editor of Amazing Stories in 1928—y’know. The magazine credited with starting modern sf? The one edited by Hugo Gernsback? That magazine? The person who worked side by side with Gernsback, and got credit for it at the time, was a woman.

The editor who bought C.L. Moore’s first story at Weird Tales was a man, but his successor at the magazine was a woman named Dorothy McIlwraith, who edited the magazine for fourteen years. She retired before most of the women who wrote sf in the latter half of the twentieth century were born.

Those of us who came of writing age in the 1980s and 1990s also believed we were storming the barricades. I remember asking if I needed to use initials to publish sf. Fortunately, I asked my college buddy, Kevin J. Anderson, who was a student of the field, even at the ripe old age of 19. He laughed at me, and introduced me to my female predecessors.

I’ve been using my full name ever since.

It’s become very clear to me in the past few years that women tend to get lost to history. Some of that has to do with the changes in publishing in the past twenty years. Publishing companies stopped reprinted the award-nominated and award-winning stories in comprehensive volumes every year long about 1992. So all of the women who’ve won awards for their writing—including two most decorated writers in sf history, Connie Willis and Lois McMaster Bujold—have the record of that particular accomplishment vanish.

The people who compile year’s best anthologies do so before the awards get announced, and seem to choose stories by women (including the award-nominees and award-winners) less often than stories by men.

I just completed an entire book for Baen trying to reclaim some of that lost history. Called Women of Futures Past, the book showcases some of the best female writers of the 20th Century, and has a long introductory essay about the influence of women in the field.

I plan to do more projects like that. Because women do get marginalized—by everyone. And it’s time to stop that.

Not only do the writers get marginalized, but so do their female characters. Jirel of Joiry is an amazing woman. And she’s not alone. Read anything by Leigh Brackett, and watch the strong women parade by. Even if they’re minor characters. They’re always strong, always interesting.

Leigh Brackett had her fingers in everything and influenced pretty much everyone. She taught Ray Bradbury how to write. (He says this, not me.) She wrote iconic character after iconic character, often standalones, whose strength and power and sass is just plain breathtaking.

She also wrote screenplays. You want to see a representative Brackett woman in film? Pay attention to Angie Dickinson’s character Feathers in Rio Bravo. Her dialogue crackles and she leaves poor John Wayne flummoxed.

Rather the same reaction that Han Solo has to Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back—which Brackett wrote the first-draft screenplay of.

But those are easy to point to. What’s harder to point to is just one strong female character in her fiction. Because all of the women she wrote about were strong. And while writing these amazing science fiction stories, she managed to inspire writers of the next several generations. Writers who list her as an influence include Michael Moorcock, John Brunner, Jack Vance, Samuel R. Delany, Roger Zelazny, Harlan Ellison, Philip Jose Farmer, Marian Zimmer Bradley, Gene Wolfe, Tanith Lee, and Andre Norton.

Oh, Andre Norton. Another woman. Who wrote about strong women. Who influenced everyone from me to Lois McMaster Bujold to the recipient of this year’s Grand Master Award, C.J. Cherryh. Long before I knew that Andre Norton had been born Alice Mary Norton, I knew I loved her fiction. I loved those women who piloted spaceships and explored strange new worlds long before some TV show appropriated that phrase.

Norton’s spaceship captains weren’t the only female professionals to appear in the pulps and the digests and the sf magazines of the time. Women of all professions dominate sf fiction—from the beginning of that fiction until now. Women do most everything that men do (only backwards and in heels—oops, wait. Different subgenre). And it wasn’t just women who created powerful female characters. Men did too.

In fact, one of the most famous women in all of science fiction—Dr. Susan Calvin—came from the brain of none other than Isaac Asimov. As I was researching this article, I found a very stupid essay in a major publication about the fact that there were only three female scientists ever in sf.

Apparently, the person who wrote the essay needed to have the word “scientist” in the story, because he ignored all the female characters who actually worked in the sciences. For example, Asimov doesn’t describe Calvin as a scientist. She was a “robopsychologist” who happened to have done post-graduate work in cybernetics. But I guess cybernetics only counts as science when someone labels it “science.”

It’s that kind of ignorance that has caused women to vanish from the histories of sf—both as writers and as characters. We get ignored or misunderstood.

Even when we’re trying to “correct” the problem of the way women are treated in sf.

Over forty years ago, now, Pamela Sargent published seminal volumes of fiction called Women of Wonder. Her agenda—and she definitely had one—was to show that women have written sf from the beginning, and that women have written sf about women.

Ever since then, anthology editors felt that women could only write about gender and women’s issues. Look up women in sf, and you’ll find anthology after anthology that took Women of Wonder as prescriptive rather than as a corrective.

Women who write space opera or sword and sorcery or action adventure, women who have hit bestseller lists with that fiction, women who have huge fandoms in sf, generally don’t get included in those anthologies.

Nor do their predecessors, from Pauline Ashwell to Katherine MacLean to Zenna Henderson. Most of the writing by those women is long out of print. I’m hoping at some point to bring back some of their stories, so that readers can encounter the brilliance of Lysistrata “Lizzie” Lee in Ashwell’s “Unwillingly To School” or meet Zenna Henderson’s People and the humans who help them survive.

But not every female character kicks butt and takes names. Sometimes the female characters in science fiction and fantasy follow the model created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in Princess of Mars. Dejah Thoris, the princess of the title, often acts as a damsel in distress in the Mars stories, but just as often she proves that she can rescue a hero with the best of them. If you actually look at these female characters, they get rescued and they rescue in equal measure.

Fans know this. As I started on the book for Baen, which I was initially calling The Women in Science Fiction project, I got letter after letter from fans and readers, recommending their favorite female writers or their favorite female characters. You can find some of this information on the Women in Science Fiction website (http://www.womeninsciencefiction.com/) that I started (and keep up when I have time).

It’s a great place to search out writers you might never have heard of and discover great science fiction and fantasy.

Yeah, some of the stories listed are dated. Some of the attitudes make me sad because they are so reflective of their time—particularly when it comes to people of color. But much of the fiction you’ll find still holds up. That’s the one cool thing about sf and fantasy adventure fiction—it doesn’t have an agenda besides entertainment. And it entertains so well that it still seems fresh today.

We lose our history—not just in the writing and the fiction, but also in the real world. And we forget that the women of the 1920s had just gotten the vote. They led what’s now being called The First Wave of Feminism. They redefined what it meant to be a woman.

Their daughters survived the Depression and became the inspiration for Rosie the Riveter. Their granddaughters led the second wave of feminism, helping women change the laws so that this current generation of women can play professional sports, can sue if they get discriminated against on the job, and can fight sexual harassment through the courts if necessary.

The women in our past were strong and mighty. They wrote about strong and mighty women. So did the men who loved those strong and mighty female writers.

At some point, we all need to stop assuming we know what happened in a previous generation and actually do the research. In this instance, the research—reading sf and fantasy—is fun and enlightening.

There’s lots of great lost heroines in our past. Time to revive them.

Or at least acknowledge them.

Or maybe just remember them for what they were.

International bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch has won or been nominated for every single major award in the science fiction community. Her latest novels completed the Anniversary Day saga in her Retrieval Artist universe. The former editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, she now edits Fiction River and special projects in sf, writes a weekly blog on the business of publishing, and publishes many books under pen names in other genres.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch can be found at http://www.kristinekathrynrusch.com/

Cirsova Issue #2 will be available on Amazon July 22nd.

Supplement to Quick Musings on the Depiction of Women in Science Fiction

Planet Stories’ publisher, Fiction House, also put out a sister line of science fiction comics called Planet Comics.  A lot of these covers show the kind of women who filled the pages of sci-fi in the olden days better than I can do justice to in words.

Oh, hey, look who has their hand on the gun that's blowing up the solar lens focused on earth!

Oh, hey, look who has their hand on the gun that’s blowing up the solar lens focused on earth!’

That dude will get there eventually, but not before that lady has zapped the monster a few times.

That dude will get there eventually, but not before that lady has zapped the monster a few times.

I guess with no man around, she'll have to zap the 3 headed T-Rex herself!

I guess with no man around, she’ll have to zap the 3 headed T-Rex herself!




Women are crack shots with ray guns, too!

Women are crack shots with ray guns, too!

That is going to hurt...

That is going to hurt…

She looks more mad than afraid; Mars God of War is grimacing because he's about to get zapped.

She looks more mad than afraid; Mars God of War is grimacing because he’s about to get zapped.

ADDENDUM: John C. Wright beat me to this years ago.  Thanks for pointing this out, Scholar-at-Arms!

Feminine Names for Strong Women’s Novels

Quick Musings on the Depiction of Women in Science Fiction

Just some brief brainstorming as I work on my write-up for Ross Rocklynne’s “The Bubble Dwellers”…

The depiction of women in “classic” science fiction film is radically different from the depiction of women in the pulps.  You might even say the gulf is astounding. ::rimshot::

I can’t remember the names of all the bad black and white sci-fi flicks from the 50s I’ve watched with my dad, but for some reason while Hollywood was content to again and again show us shrieking lady scientists who are told by some square-jaw that they’re wrong about something (even when they were right) because they were a woman, science fiction writers in the magazines were cranking out all kinds of badass babes of whom Princess Leia was a cut-rate knock-off.

If you go just by what you’d see in the movies, you could easily conclude that old sci-fi was kind of stupid and bad and all the women were shrill Faye Wrays in need of rescuing.  That could not be further from the truth.  There have always been kick-ass women in sci-fi, and no, Joss Whedon didn’t invent them.

If anyone says  to you “Yeah, but it would be nice to have the woman save the man for a change!” you can tell them that space princesses have been leading armies and cutting their way through enemies with light sabers to save their beloveds since the 1920s.


Women Have Always Fought… With Lightsabers.

Happy Birthday Leigh Brackett

It is both astounding and disheartening to see article after article come out on or around Brackett’s birthday downplay her role in Empire to the point of saying ‘she was a woman so they threw away her script’.  We’re witnessing Culture Revolution and it is burying one of the most important women in the history of Science Fiction. * This new generation cannot be claim to be pioneers unless the old ones can be dismissed or are forgotten.


Women have been writing awesome and badass sci-fi for over a century.  Women have broken down countless barriers.  Don’t be fooled by people who want to put those barriers back up just so they can claim that they were the ones who knocked them down.

Happy Birthday, Leigh Brackett; you kicked ass from all across the inner solar system to a galaxy far far away, and no one can take that from you!

*:Jeffro beat me to posting this by a few minutes, so I’ll let him do the heavy lifting of links & quotes.